So what is a Highly Sensitive Person?
“An HSP has increased sensitivity, both internally, and to their environment.”
“The highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.
Compared to the 80% without the trait, HSPs process everything around them much more—reflect on it, elaborate on it, make associations. When this processing is not fully conscious, it surfaces as intuition. This represents a survival strategy found in a many species, always in a minority of its members.”
All HSPs possess four main characteristics (D.O.E.S)
1) Depth of Processing
2) Over Stimulation
3) Emotional Responsiveness & Empathy
4) Sensitive to Subtleties
HSPs will feel things more deeply. They will react more intensely to situations which others just ignore or take in their stride. They are often the “canary” in the gold mine, experiencing an awareness of unpleasant, or “dysfunctional” dynamics in the workplace and in families. Because of their sensitivity, they are more susceptible to anxiety and mental illness, but they also have the capacity to experience more joy and wonder.
HSPs live and experience things more deeply than others.
Unfortunately there is a lot of prejudice against people who are highly sensitive. HSPs are often seen as “anti-social,” socially backward, precious or “over-sensitive.”
The qualities that make people highly sensitive are also the ones which can make them great contributors to professions such as medicine, psychotherapy, teaching and the arts - and of course, really good friends.
I know I am a bit biased.
My own HSPness has lead to people thinking that I am anti-social, over-sensitive, stand-offish, or over the top.
Like other HSPs, I often need to take time out to refuel.
For me, spending time alone is not a punishment or a last resort - it’s the only thing that keeps me sane!
I don’t like loud parties or loud people and there is nothing I like better than curling up with my cat and a really good book.
For me, spending all day with other people is intensely tiring.
When I come home, I need to be alone to get my energy back and I often spend the next day recovering by finishing a little watercolour.
Art is definitely a salve and a home for all HSPs and most people with this trait will have a strong affinity for music, art and literature.
Thanks to Elaine Aron’s book, HSPs now have a rallying point.
As she points out, it can be a challenge for sensitive people to fit into this competitive and dynamic world.
The demands of the contemporary workplace can make people with HSP feel like an endangered species. Open plan offices are particularly challenging for people with this temperament.
Because we are in the minority, we can often feel that WE are the ones who need to change and adapt.
But the reality is that the world is made up of people with many different temperaments and world views.
People with high sensitivity are a valuable part of this complex web. We have our own unique gifts to offer and we need to recognise and value ourselves for the qualities that make us special, rather than trying to fit in to a world that was never designed to favour our distinctive talents.
As a psychotherapist and an HSP, I understand the special needs of people with this wonderful trait. I offer HSP counselling and psychotherapy for personal growth and recovery from trauma.